may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Donald Ted Bagaus,
Joel Patrick Erickson,
Filed August 31, 1999
Lac Qui Parle County District Court
File No. K2-97-131
John Tollefson, Lac Qui Parle County Attorney, 677 Pine Street, Dawson, MN 56232 (for respondent)
Douglas W. Thomson, Lisa Lodin Peralta, 332 Minnesota St., Ste. W-1260, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellants)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
In these consolidated appeals, Donald Ted Bagaus and Joel Patrick Erickson claim police did not have probable cause to support the warrantless arrests that resulted in their convictions of fifth-degree controlled substance crime, under Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subds. 2(1), 3 (1998). Because we conclude that the district court properly found that probable cause existed for appellants' warrantless arrests, we affirm.
On appeal, where the issue to be determined is whether probable cause supports a warrantless arrest, this court "independently reviews the facts to determine the reasonableness of the conduct of police." State v. Riley, 568 N.W.2d 518, 523 (Minn. 1997) (citation omitted).
To establish probable cause, the police must show that they "reasonably could have believed that a crime has been committed by the person to be arrested."
Id. (quoting State v. Sorenson, 270 Minn. 186, 196, 134 N.W.2d 115, 123 (1965)); accord In re Welfare of G.M., 560 N.W.2d 687, 695 (Minn. 1997) ("test of probable cause to arrest is whether the objective facts are such that under the circumstances, a person of ordinary care and prudence would entertain an honest and strong suspicion that a crime has been committed"). The lawfulness of the arrest is determined by an objective standard that takes into account the totality of the circumstances, including the expertise and experience of the arresting police officers. State v. Perkins, 582 N.W.2d 876, 878 (Minn. 1998); Riley, 568 N.W.2d at 523.
In this case, the following facts support probable cause to arrest appellants. After receiving a tip from a confidential informant, the Lac Qui Parle Sheriff's Office located a marijuana-growing operation on two remote parcels of wooded DNR land. The parcels contained numerous marijuana plants that showed obvious signs of cultivation, including supports and evidence of weeding and soil improvement. The informant had also stated that the parcels were cultivated on Monday and Friday nights and identified Bagaus as one of the growers. On Monday, September 1, 1997, just before 10 p.m., an alarm was activated at one of the parcels near Arena Township, warning patrol cars that a vehicle had passed over the alarm. The site was located off County Road 13, about six miles from Madison. At that site, the only access point to the marijuana plants was a 300-yard driveway or path in a wild and overgrown area. A DNR officer drove by the site and noticed a 1981 Oldsmobile Delta 88 with license number 333 NLY parked there. There were no other vehicles or residences in the area. Within 10 minutes, the county sheriff and a Madison police officer secured a two-mile stretch of County Road 13 at either end of the access point. At 10:26 p.m., the alarm again activated. Within minutes, the above-described Delta 88 drove past police and was stopped. Police identified appellants as the occupants and handcuffed them. Bagaus was wearing hip boots and both men had wet and muddy feet.
Based on these facts, sufficient probable cause existed for appellants' arrests. Appellants were specifically connected to the cultivation of the marijuana because they were stopped in a car that had been parked at the remote site, and the men's wet and muddy clothing, as well as Bagaus's hip boots, were a strong indication of their criminal conduct. See United States v. Raborn, 872 F.2d 589, 594 (5th Cir. 1989) (probable cause for warrantless arrest existed when defendant visited isolated farmhouse where no traffic had been observed for weeks and when farmhouse was known to be manufacturing site of controlled substances); United States v. Kelley, 6 F. Supp.2d 1168, 1176 (D. Kan. 1998) (probable cause for warrantless arrest of vehicle's driver existed where driver dropped off individual to tend marijuana plants in isolated, hidden field and returned within one-half hour to pick up individual); Tachiquin v. Stowell, 789 F. Supp. 1512, 1519 (E. D. Cal. 1992) (probable cause for arrest of ranch foreman existed where reliable informant revealed marijuana-growing operation at ranch and foreman's involvement and where aerial surveillance confirmed existence of operation). With the exception of Bagaus's identity, the police corroborated every detail provided by the informant, which, in turn, buttressed the reasonableness of their belief that appellants had committed a crime.
We are not persuaded by appellants' claim that they were merely present in the area, and their presence was insufficient to establish probable cause for a warrantless arrest. See United States v. Ingrao, 897 F.2d 860, 863 (7th Cir. 1990) (mere presence near suspected crime without other indicia of involvement insufficient to support finding of probable cause for warrantless arrest); State v. Blais, 665 A.2d 569, 571-72 (Vt. 1995) (same). Even without inculpatory evidence that was discovered post-arrest, which included Miracle Grow fertilizer on Bagaus's fingers, as well as other growing materials found in the vehicle, we conclude police had enough evidence to establish probable cause based on the corroborated tip of the informant, coupled with the actions of appellants on the night of their arrest. See State v. White, 489 N.W.2d 792, 794 n.1 (Minn. 1992) (evidence discovered post-arrest may not be used to support probable cause to arrest).